12 Apr 2017

Call to boost Māori wardens, not police, in Northland

11:28 pm on 12 April 2017

Kaitaia needs more local Māori wardens and Māori Women's Welfare League, not a 24/7 police base, the head of a Northland Trust says.

Ricky Houghton

He Korowai Trust chief executive Ricky Houghton said having more police boots on the ground would not solve problems, just manage them. Photo: RNZ/Lois Williams

Prime Minister Bill English announced in February that 20 round-the-clock police response bases would be rolled out this year from Northland to Canterbury.

That was part of a $388 million investment in police, coming from a $500m increase shared with the Ministry of Justice.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said today the first four bases would be in Kaitaia, Matamata, Wairoa and Rolleston, and the other 16 would be introduced from 2018.

Mike Bush, Police Commissioner. 2 February 2017.

Mike Bush Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

He Korowai Trust chief executive Ricky Houghton said having more police boots on the ground would not solve problems, just manage them.

"We know what we need to do, we know how to grapple with it. But what will happen, I suspect, is that there'll be more arrests," he said.

"It's not really going to solve the problem. It's just going to shift the problem on to the judiciary, then on to the prisons, then on to the other ministries."

He said because there was a high proportion of Māori in the area, using Māori wardens and the Māori Women's Welfare League would be better.

"I'm sort of disappointed that somehow or other their mighty support and knowledge and skill has been left out of any allocation."

Kaikohe to wait at least another year for 24/7 police presence

Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis, however, said boosting police numbers in the region had taken a long time, especially in Kaitaia where staff were struggling with the workload.

He would also like to see some education programmes rolled out, and for police to be on the beat in the streets mixing with the community, he said.

"I don't just want them to come in there and start locking up more and more people ... We've got to be smarter on crime rather than being harder on crime. We know that we're throwing more and more people into prisons and that's not working for us."

There was also a huge need in Kaikohe, Mr Davis said. He said a 24/7 police presence should be introduced there now, not later as planned - and the same for Kerikeri.

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Kaikohe will have to wait at least another year for its 24-hour base. Photo: RNZ/Lois Williams

Kaikohe Business Association chairman Mark Anderson said he was also disappointed about the wait.

"I'm glad at least one of the two towns in New Zealand that has a very high need for a 24-hour manned police station, that at least one of those towns is getting it. We'd dearly love Kaikohe to be the other one but certainly don't resent Kaitaia being first cab off the rank."

While Kaikohe waited, Kaitaia would get an extra five officers in order to establish its 24/7 operation.

Mr Bush said, at the moment, officers who finished in the early hours of the morning in Kaitaia were required to stay on-call and jump out of bed if anything happened.

He said the boost in police numbers in the town meant this would change.

"So police officers will be working in that area out of a base - but not in a base - patrolling, being visible and making sure that they're absolutely ready to respond to their community.

Mr Bush said an extra 880 sworn officers and 245 non-sworn staff would be employed over four years, with recruitment starting in July.

Of those, 66 would be in Northland, which has been facing increased difficulties with methamphetamine and not enough police to cope with problems in the area.

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